With a combination of veteran leadership and an energetic, ambitious core of freshmen, Linfield has high hopes for the 2012-13 season.
Coming off a 5-20 year, including a 3-13 record against Northwest Conference foes, the ‘Cats look to build from the ground up. A lot of that weight falls on the shoulders of a pair of returning lettermen, who were amongst Linfield’s leading scorers last season.
Andrew Batiuk averaged 14.1 points per game and was an honorable mention all-NWC selection as a freshman. Zach Meikle is a three-year letterwinner who averaged 5.4 points last year and is viewed as one of the Wildcats’ senior leaders.
“Offensively, it will be Batiuk and Meikle,” said head coach Larry Doty, adding, “Batiuk is probably the featured big man coming back in the league.”
As a whole, the Wildcats seek a boost in scoring (67.9 points per game) and also look to cut back on turnovers (15.4). Both statistics ranked near the bottom of the league last season.
Though Linfield lost first team all-NWC selection Zach Anderson and honorable mention pick David Lee, Doty emphasized that the ‘Cats will not be the only team filling voids this season.
“All of the teams in the conference have lost heavily to graduation,” he said, referring specifically to last year’s NWC Player of the Year, David Michaels from Whitman.
While Batiuk and Meikle will be under the spotlight, the team seeks offensive production from the bench as well. Cory Hendryx, Ryan Zettle and Matt Kalbfleisch are all expected to see significant time and will be relied on to provide stability.
Brandon Harris played in 21 games as a freshman in 2011-12, and will be the team’s opening day starting point guard. Harris provides both leadership and the means to create scoring opportunities.
“We have the ability to score inside, as well as shoot from the perimeter,” said Doty. “We have guards who can shoot and who can take the ball to the rim.”
This season’s team features a quintet of true freshmen, all of whom have made positive steps in the preseason towards seeing playing time.
“I really like their attitude and approach, and how they have infused a lot of competition,” Doty said of the younger group.
Defensively, Linfield looks to improve its performance from last year, when the team ranked second-to-last in the NWC in points allowed per game (77), and last in turnovers created (10.4).
“On the defensive end of the floor, it’s going to be a collective effort by everybody,” explained Doty.
Freshman center Forrest Paxton will be called upon to use his 6-foot-8 frame to grab rebounds and act as a support for Batiuk. Paxton’s classmate Kevin Hurley could also see significant time in 2012-13.
In terms of depth, Doty is excited about the amount of returning players who saw varsity action last season. “Nick Cantonwine, Tim Logan and Dakotah Pine all have experience at the varsity level,” Doty said.
After securing a record-breaking 325th career victory in his 25th season at Linfield, Doty is optimistic that the ‘Cats can have a turnaround season in 2012-13.
The Wildcats start the season on the road, with tough competition in Cal-State Maritime and Menlo. “We will find out (about our mindset) right away on the road,” said Doty. “The coaching staff loves what they see right now, and time will tell.”
Linfield opens Northwest Conference at home against Lewis & Clark (Nov. 30) and Willamette (Dec. 4) before resuming league play in early January.